Saturday, December 3, 2011

Mexico: Exploring Countries Collection

Mexico: Exploring Countries Collection
Written by: Colleen Sexton
Published by: Bellwether Media 2011
Grades: 4-6
Genre: Nonfiction, Multicultural

Synopsis: This book is an educational information book exploring different countries.  It looks at the land, wildlife, the people, daily life, school, work, play, food, holidays, and land contrasts.  It provides fast facts about the country and a glossary of terms for children to learn.  It also provides a list of websites to visit with more information and information on where to learn more.  It has vocabulary words bolded throughout the books for children to learn as well when they are learning about the country. 

Theme/Skill:  Mexico, Geography, Work, Education, Holidays, Wildlife, Daily Life.  Researching skills are looked at as well as vocabulary and facts.

About the Author: Colleen Sexton
Colleen Sexton has published books including Teaching Science for All Children: Inquiry Methods for Constructing Understanding (4th Edition), Teaching Science for All Children (5th Edition), and Teaching Science for All Children: Inquiry Lessons for Constructing Understanding (3rd Edition).  She is the author of many informatinal books including biographies of J.K. Rowling, Jackie Robinson, and Arnold Schwarzenegger and books about puffins, space shuttles, squids, ducklings, and lionfish.

Source used:
Pre-Reading Activity:  Put the word Research on the board.  Make a web chart with the class and ask them what comes to mind with the word research.  Tell them that they research to obtain information about certain topics to find out more about them.  Then separate the children into pairs and then explain to children what they will be doing with the books and researching.  Hand out a sheet of paper that is broken up by categories.  At the top of the paper will be the title of their country they are exploring.  Then underneath will be subcategories, including geography, daily life, holidays, education, work, wildlife, food.  Underneath each category they need to come up with one fact that describes it from the book with their partner.

Post-Reading Activity: After reading, they will create an artifact that they will present to the class along with their facts.  The pair can choose any category to go more in depth.  They can either create a game from the country the class can play, a food the class can taste, a shoe diorama that shows the life of the people, or a poster that shows the geography of the land.  They will be given 2-3 days in class and at home to prepare their presentation to inform the other students.  They will be graded on information, preparedness of material, and creativity of project.   

Reflection:  These informational books about culture really caught my attention.  Most books that are nonfiction contain tons of information that is too complex for kids to pick apart and understand.  This series does a great job having visuals that pop out on the page and a good word to page ratio.  It contains just enough information for children to understand and uses bold words that show important vocabulary words for them to know.  I love how it provides a table of contents in the front which makes it easier for children to locate information.  The only thing that would be difficult about these books would be using them in a whole group instruction.  They would be best used in small groups or pairs that would allow them to research and then present to the rest of the class.

Bake Sale

Bake Sale
Written and Illustrated by: Sara Varon
Published by: First Second 2011
Grades: 3-6
Genre: Graphic Novel

Synopsis: This graphic novel is about two friends Eggplant and Cupcake.  Eggplant is a painter and Cupcake is a baker and in his own band.  Eggplant gets an invite from his Aunt to go visit her in Turkey.  His aunt works for a magazine which Turkish Delight, a renown baker, is in.  Cupcake wants to go with Eggplant and be able to meet Turkish Delight, someone he looks up to.  Cupcake quits his band and has a bake sale to save up for his trip.  However, Eggplant loses his job and can’t get enough money.  Cupcake thinks it is better for Eggplant to go on the trip to see his aunt so he gives him the money he saved up to go on the trip.  After Eggplant goes on the trip, Cupcake wishes that he went instead to meet Turkish Delight.  When Eggplant comes back from his trip, Cupcake wants to know how it was.  Cupcake wants to make his bake sale better so that he can raise more money.  He sees a sign for a contest, that reads “Bake Sale” and the prize is 2 tickets to anywhere in the world to go on vacation.  Cupcake says no matter what happens it doesn’t matter because his friendship with Eggplant is more important.

Theme/Skill: Accepting Others, Becoming Friends, Choices, Baking. 

About the Author: Sara Varon
Sara grew up in Chicago, Illinois.  Her entire life she has been creating characters.  She is known by others as a comics artist, printmaker, and illustrator.  She is best known for Sweatherweather, a 2003 wordless comic.  Her work includes many anthropomorphic animals, robots, snowmen, and baked goods.  Her works include Robot Dreams, Chicken and Cat, and Chicken and Cat Clean Up.  She currently lives in Brooklyn, New York. 

Sources used:

Pre-Reading Activities: Introduce what a graphic novel is and the components to it.  Show them an example of a strip from a graphic novel and everything that goes into it.  Explain that people create these for a living and that it takes a lot of time for them to create.  Have the children take notes in the form of Cornell notes in their notebook to keep for a test on it later on. 

Graphic Novel information:
Graphic Novel lesson plan:
Cornell note format:

Post-Reading Activities:  Children will continue their own graphic novel ending to the story.  They will be given a graphic novel template that they will use to create it.  They must have at least four pictures with a caption in each box to go with it.  They will do a rough draft of this first, then give to the teacher to check for corrections before they will complete a finished copy to color.  The graphic novels will be laminated and displayed around the room to show their ending.  After this, they will write a paragraph describing where they would go and why if they won the vacation tickets from the bake sale.  They will have to create a paragraph of at least 5-7 sentences. 

Graphic Novel Template:

Reflection:  This was my first encounter with using a graphic novel.  I have looked at graphic novels when I was a child, but it wasn’t until now that I really examined a graphic novel.  I love the use of this graphic novel and the simplicity it brings with the pictures and short captions that go along with it.  I like how the story can have deeper meaning for older children but yet a simpler meaning for younger children reading it too.  I think that the length of the graphic novel is a bit long and that children may get bored reading it to find out the ending of the story.  However, I also think that the ending leaves teachers a variety of activities and ways that they can incorporate this and the different themes in the book in their classroom. 

Friday, December 2, 2011

Max Learns Sign Language

Max Learns Sign Language Written by: Adria Klein
Illustrated by: Mernie Gallagher-Cole
Published by: Picture Window Books 2007
Grades: K-1
Genre: People with Disabilities, Picture Book

Synopsis: A young boy named Max, wants to be able to talk with his friend, Susan, who can’t hear.  So he can talk to her, he takes a sign language class where he learns different words like hello so he can talk to Susan about things. 

Theme/Skill:  Sign Language, Deafness, Friendship.  It shows signs throughout the book that children could learn.

About the Author: Adria Klein

Adria has written books, book chapters, and articles dealing with emergent literacy.  She is the author of a series of children’s books about Max including: Max Learns Sign Language, Max Stays Overnight, Max Goes to the Library, Max Goes to the Zoo, and Max Goes to the Playground.  She is the co-editor of Literacy, Teaching, and Learning, a journal of the Reading Recovery Council of North America.  She is currently a professor at California State University in the Department of Educational Research and Policy.  There she teaches language arts and literacy courses in the graduate Reading Education program. 

Source used:
Pre-Reading Activities:  Before the book is read, put a list of words that are found in the book.  Make a list of them on your writing board for children to see.  Words that should be included in this are friend, Max, sign, hello, learn , language.  For a warm up, say the word and then sound out the word with the children using the weightlifting technique.  All of the children lay on the rug and as the teacher says the letter, the children will “bench” the letter and repeat the letter after the teacher until the whole word is complete.  This will help to familiarize the kids with the words in the book they will listen to and eventually read independently. 

Throughout the book and after ask questions of the students including:  Why does Max want to learn sign language?  What can we use sign language for?  What happened in the story?

Post-Reading Activities:  Have the children draw a picture that creates a summary of the book.  Then have them write a sentence by sounding it out and using the board of the words from the book.  Then when they are done, teach them some simple signs to communicate with one another.  Have them practice the sign by making it to their partner who sits across or next to them. 

Writing Page:



Reflection:  I think that this book is for very beginning readers and must be used for very young children.  The book contains one sentence on the pages to go along with the pictures in the story.  It is meant for children to learn to start to read this book and be able to do it on their own.  I think that this book could be used in guided reading for children to practice on their own as well as in whole group where teachers can introduce sign language to them to use in their class.  I like how the book tries to show a few signs throughout the book, but it is difficult to see exactly how to make the sign just from the picture.  Additional research on signs would have to be done in order to make the sign correctly.  

Moses Goes to a Concert

Moses Goes to a Concert
Written and Illustrated by: Isaac Millman
Published by: Farar, Straus, & Giroux 2002
Grades: K-3
Genre: Realistic Fiction, Disabilities

Synopsis: A young boy named Moses and his friends at school are deaf.  They attend a school field trip with their class and their teacher Mr. Samuels to a concert.  On the trip they meet, Marjorie Elwyn who plays the drums.  The class learns that she is deaf too.  At the concert they watch her perform and can feel the music through the balloons Mr. Samuels gives them.  At the end of the concert, the children find out that they get to play Marjorie’s instruments.  They learn from her that you can do anything if you set your mind to it, no matter who you are.  Throughout the book there are pictures of signs to go along with some words.  At the end of the book there are conversations in sign language and the sign alphabet. 

Theme/Skill:  Deaf, Instruments, Sign Language, Hearing, Disabilities, Values, Diversity.  It uses sign language throughout the book for children to learn.

About the Author: Isaac Millman
Isaac was born in France in 1933 and came to the United States when he was a teenager after his parents were killed from the German occupation in France.  In 1948, when he came to the United States, he was adopted by an American Jewish Family in Brooklyn, NY.  He later on became a United States citizen and served in the armed forces.  He attended college at Pratt Institute where he graded with a degree in fine arts in 1952.  He also worked as a senior art director for a large sales promotion agency.  Isaac is known as both an author and illustrator of several books including four Moses books, Hidden Child, and Arbeit macht Freit-Work Sets You Free.  He currently lives in New York City with his wife and has two sons. 

Source used:

Pre-Reading Activities: As a whole-class, the students will make a list on the board of the field trips they have taken.  Ask questions such as:  What field trips have you taken?  Which one did you like best? What was so special about the trip?  After creating this list, add going to a concert.  Ask students: Why would they want to go to a concert?  What would you like about it? What do you see and hear at a concert?  Then lead into discussion about hearing.  What if you couldn’t hear but still wanted to go to a concert?  Would you go?  Explain that many people who are hearing impaired still go to concerts but rather listen for different things besides the words, they listen for the vibrations of sound to figure out the words.  Play a tape for them and have them wear earphones so they hear the vibrations rather than the words.  Ask them to make a chart about what they experienced.  Then read the book.

Post-Reading Activities: Have children learn some sign language.  Explain that although Moses and his friends are deaf, they can still communicate with others just like we do except they sign to communicate.  Teach them some signs such as please, thank you, I want, I need, colors, letters, etc.  Whichever signs would be most helpful in the classroom.  Give them pictures of these signs and have them go home and practice them.  Have them create a sentence at home that consists of five words.  Have them learn the signs and share it with the class the next day.  Continue using sign language in your class so students will pick up on it and may use to communicate with you and other students. 
Lesson Ideas:

Sign Language Game:
Reflection:  Although this book is written a little over ten years ago, I loved this book more than recent ones that I found on the hearing impaired.  I think the story does a great job showing kids that those who are hearing impaired can do everything that we do like even go to music concerts.  It follows the children on a class field trip and portrays them to the audience like they have no disability.  They still communicate with one another and listen to the instruments but just in different ways through sign and through hearing the vibrations.  I love how the book illustrates the different signs that go with words on the page and show the audience how to do it.  I love this idea because then you can learn some sign language and maybe inspire people to go take a class on it to someday use.  I am absolutely in love with this book! 

Pink and Say

Pink and Say
Written and Illustrated by: Patricia Polacco
Published by: Philomel Books 1994 
Grades: 4-6
Genre: Historical Fiction

Synopsis: This book tells the story of how Pinkus saved and helped a wounded Union soldier of a different race, Sheldon, during the Civil War.  After being nursed back to health by Pinkus’ African American mother, the two boys became friends.  After a run in with the Confederates, Pinkus’ mother was killed and the two boys were sent to a Confederate concentration camp.  Sheldon survived, but nothing was heard from Pinkus. 

Theme/Skill: Civil War, Courage and Honor, Friendship

About the Author and Illustrator: Patricia Polacco 
Patricia was born in Lansing, Michigan, in 1944.  She lived on a farm with her mother and grandparents until she was five.  During this time, she spent the school year with her mom and summer with her dads since they were divorced.  She then moved to Coral Gables, Florida and then to Oakland, California where she lived 37 years of her life.  Patricia did not learn how to read until she was almost 14 years old.  At this age she also was diagnosed with dyslexia.  She did go onto college and graduated with a degree in Fine Arts and a Ph.D. in Art History.  At first, she restored ancient pieces of art at museums and then spent most of her time as the mother of her two children.  It wasn’t until she was 41 that she started writing children’s books.  She has written books including, Just in Time, Abraham Lincoln, The Junk Yard Wonders, and For the Love of Autumn.  She currently lives in Union City, Michigan. 
Source used:

Pre-Reading Activities:  Bring in the Union and the Confederate flag and have students look at them.  Brainstorm what these two flags represent and what event they are associated with.  Talk about the Civil War and make a chart comparing the two sides of the war, the Union side and the Confederate side. 

Union and Confederate Flag:

Post-Reading Activities:  Have students write in their journal a letter pretending to be Pinkus or Sheldon.  In this letter they will describe how they would feel if they were either of the boys and relate it to the Civil War, by including what they learned about it after they express their thoughts.  This letter will have to include 3 facts and be at least two paragraphs long.  They must use letter format with a heading and a closing.

Lesson plans:
Reflection: This book is very deep in the content and emotion that it is protraying based on the Civil War and the experiences these two boys have to go through. It is shown through the words and especially the pictures the significance of the Civil War and what happened during it. I think students will understand most of what she is trying to get across, while others may not understand some points she is trying to make. The pictures of the faces grab the emotion in it that I think will help students understand a little more. This book does a great job helping teachers explain what the Civil War was to young children so they can try to understand the history of their country. 

Freedom River

Freedom River
Written by: Doreen Rappaport
Illustrated by: Bryan Collier
Published by: Hyperion Books for Children 2000
Grades: 2-6
Genre: Historical Fiction, Biography
Coretta Scott King Award

Synopsis: This historical fiction book tells the story of a man, John Parker, and his fight for freedom.  At night John Parker, would cross the river from Ohio into Kentucky to save slaves and send them up North.  This was very dangerous but he had tremendous courage, careful planning, and faith which made it successful.  For one family in particular, he used his determination to help them escape from slavery along the Underground Railroad. 
Theme/Skill: Underground Railroad, Slavery, African American History, Courage, Honor. Poetry

About the Author: Doreen Rappaport

Doreen was born and raised in New York City. Doreen went to Brandeis University and majored in music. After she graduated she taught music and reading for seven years in New Rochelle, New York in junior high schools. In 1965, she taught at a freedom school in McComb, Mississippi. While she was there, she met many African American who were deprived of rights that she took for granted. As a result of this, she decided to set out and write about unknown heroes that have fought for their rights. She wanted to write about this lost history that she did not know of. Doreen loves to travel, cook, garden, visit schools, and talk to children. She now resides in New York City and Copake Falls, New York with her husband.

Source used:

Pre-Reading Activities: Play a tape about life in the 1800s and the Underground Railroad.  Have students draw a picture about their feelings that they get when they listen to the tape.  Give students an outline on the Underground Railroad and slavery.  Teach facts about which states believed in slavery and which did not during that time period.  Show pictures to go along with the outlines as well.

Underground Railroad video:

Pictures and information:

Post-Reading Activities:  As a whole class we will use a map of the United States and we will color code it by having students come up to color in which states believed in slavery and which did not.  Then individually have the students contribute in making a river bulletin board, by cutting up the river into pieces.  On each piece a student would write a fact about the Underground Railroad or slavery.  The river would be pieced together and become the “Freedom River” bulletin board. 

Map of free and slave states:

About the Underground Railroad:

Reflection: I think this book helps capture the significant importance of the Underground Railroad and people who took risks like John Parker.  It is hard to explain things like this to elementary school children without books like Freedom River which help explain it to them in a simple way through a story.  I love how the pictures in watercolors are used to show the emotion and the actions of John Parker.  I think this book is very informative yet has a message drawn throughout it that says with determination and struggle you can help others and make a difference. 

The Very Hungry Caterpillar

The Very Hungry Caterpillar
Written and Illustrated by: Eric Carle
Published by: Philomel Books 1987

Grades: K-2
Genre: Picture Book, Classic, Math

Synopsis: This story tells about the transformation of a very hungry caterpillar into a beautiful butterfly.  The caterpillar eats his way through numerous foods in large amounts including, candy, pie, apples, pears, cupcakes, etc. until he becomes full at last.  He then forms a cocoon around himself and falls asleep until he one day breaks through as a butterfly. 

Theme/Skill: Counting and Numbers, Life Cycles, Caterpillars, Butterflies, Story Sequencing.

About the Author: Eric Carle

Eric was born in 1929 in Syracuse, New York.  When he was six, he moved to Germany with his family where he became educated and graduated from Akademie der bildenden Kunste, a prestigious art school.  In 1952, he returned to America with his portfolio and settled in New York.  He found a job as a graphic designer for the New York Times.  He was asked one day by Bill Martin, Jr. to illustrate a book he had written.  As a result was the publication of the book, Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?  This started Carle’s career as an illustrator.  His most famous work is the Very Hungry Caterpillar published in 1969.  Since then he has illustrated more than seventy books.  Today Carle, has two grown children and divides his time with his wife in the Florida Keys and North Carolina. 

Source used:

Pre-Reading Activities:  Bring in a few caterpillars for the children to look at.  Ask questions such as: What is one thing you noticed about the caterpillars?  Where do you think you find caterpillars? What do caterpillars turn into?  On the board, go through the different stages of a caterpillar turning into a butterfly.  Have a different student come up to the board to write out each different stage.  

Post-Reading Activities:  Group the students by having them count off by threes.  Have each group make either a caterpillar, cocoon, or butterfly.  The finished products will be hung from the ceiling as the class maps out the different stages of development.  Also keep the live caterpillars in the classroom to observe each day to watch it change and chart how long it stays in each stage. 

Lesson Ideas:
Reflection:  I remember reading this book while I was little.  Now that I have read it to my preschool children, it seems to never get old with whichever generation reads it.  Both the preschool children and myself love the vibrant and colorful illustrations that fill each page.  Having a white background with large images that pop out of the pages draws your eye onto each page.  I love how there are holes through the food to show that a caterpillar has eaten through it.  The concept of the book is so simple yet helps children see how a caterpillar changes and helps them learn how to count the number of objects plus learn the days of the week.  Spectacular!